Heart of Mizzou

9 years 11 months 1 week ago October 22, 2006 Oct 22, 2006 Sunday, October 22 2006 Sunday, October 22, 2006 10:20:22 PM CDT in Sports

It's every fans dream to be part of the team. Nellie Dodd is living hers. The Missouri volleyball fan is not only part, but the heart of the team.

You can see emotion in numerous ways, wringing hands, intense eyes, and screaming lungs. But you'll also find it on the sidelines. Dodd is a Mizzou fan who bleeds black and gold.

"I'd almost, to some extent, say family cause she is always with us. Before games we're always where's Nellie," said middle blocker Nicole Wilson.

Chances are you'll find her. Dodd is all-access. She's not only in the locker room, but known for giving the pre-game pep talk.

"When you encourage someone else, you in turn receive it and I can never do enough for what they brought me," she said.

Just as Dodd cheers on the team, the girls encourage her. It shouldn't surprise you, Dodd suffers from Cardiomyopathy, an abnormally enlarged heart.

"I was born with it and I lived for 10 years with a half a heart and I had a single chamber pace maker put in... a dual chamber and a defibrillator," she explained.

"As our team developed, her health problems became more severe and more severe, and at the end of last year she needed a heart transplant," said Assistant Coach Susan Kreklow.

"Our coaches told us she needed a heart transplant and she is still coming to our games. Wow, this is amazing," said Wilson.

Dodd only missed one game, because of the heart condition, since the Kreklows took over the volleyball program.

"She was struggling to get to games and she couldn't walk down stairs. And she became on oxygen all the time," Wilson explained.

"She could barely come to practice and we would make sure she was there for us even in her worse times," added Kreklow.

It's during those times, Coach Susan Kreklow would pick Nellie up and deliver her enthusiasm to practices.

"You also knew that in your heart all she needed was that opportunity. I haven't met anyone that has the will that she does," Kreklow explained.

She got the opportunity earlier this year. She was put into the game with successful a heart transplant on January 20th.

"I've been in a storm, but I haven't been in it by myself, because I've had lots of friends and coaches and ballplayers encourage me," said Dodd.

"No matter what you're going through you can push through it. If somebody is going through something life and death, why can't I push through a test? It's a huge inspiration," said Wilson.

Dodd is healthy now, back at practices, and in her familiar sideline seat with enthusiasm pumping through her veins.

"But it is the heart that she brings. The undying heart and soul. The encouragement," added Kreklow.

"Medicine nine different times a day, but that's okay. I'm alive and I'm here enjoying the game being encouragement. And that's what life is, life is not how long you live, it's what you do while you're here," Dodd explained.

In February this year, Dodd won the Women's Intersport Network Courage Award. Even though hospitals don't release details about organ donors, they did tell Nellie she now has the heart of a young man.

Dodd attended her first football game in 1968. She can also be seen at women's basketball, soccer, gymnastics and wrestling.

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